Joint Council 37 President Tony Andrews called a special meeting in Portland of Teamster officers and members to discuss the present status of the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust and the Union's position on federal pension legislation under consideration in Congress. Local 162 Secretary-Treasurer Bob Sleight and President Mark Davison joined the call to turnout Local 162 members for the event and members responded in force. The May 2nd meeting at Joe Edgar Union Hall filled to capacity with nearly 500 Teamsters from Local Unions throughout the Joint Council.
Western Pension Chairman Chuck Mack gave an excellent presentation on the current financial strength of our pension. Mack credited the hard work of Local Union officers for continuing to bargain record contributions to the Western Pension, sound management of the pension funds by the Union and Employer Trustees, strong investments and other winning strategies.
The Western Pension numbers are staggering. Mack reported that in just the last 8 years our pension has grown since 2010 from $29 billion in assets to nearly $42 billion in 2018. Our Western Pension remains in the Green zone under the pension protection act. Not only has the Western Pension grown over $13 billion in assets in just the last 8 years, it also paid out in annual benefits to Teamster retirees, in 2017 alone, over $2.5 billion. The Western Pension is growing at a record pace while at the same time we are taking care of our retirees with record payouts!
On the issue of federal legislation. Mack discussed the Union’s support of the Butch Lewis Act which is designed to provide loan interest loans to pension plans that are underfunded such as the Central States. Mack also discussed the Union’s opposition to the Grow Act which is designed to reduce employer’s liabilities and undermine the traditional multi-employer pension system. While there are certainly plans in trouble across the country Mack reported that over 70% of multi-employer pension plans are in the Green zone.
While the Western Pension is safe and secure your Union and Western Pension representatives must do everything we can to lobby and organize in Congress against legislation that undermines retirement security for workers in America. Teamsters are circulating petitions and are urged to contract their Congressional representatives. Oregon and Washington U.S. Senators can be contacted at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ and U.S. House Representatives can be contacted at https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
Local 162 has included a form letter for members to send to their Congressional representatives opposing the Grow Act. The letter is contained in the downloads section of the Local 162 website. A website collecting petitions can also be accessed at https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/support-families-in-multiemp?source=s.em.cp&r_by=19937728
The following information on the GROW ACT has been provided to Local 162 from Local 174 and is being reprinted with the permission of Rick Hicks, the President of Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28 and Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 174 in Seattle, Washington.
Multiemployer pension plans are no strangers to political threat – especially those plans that are in poor financial health, which are frequent targets from anti-union politicians. However, the threat posed by currently proposed legislation would not only damage plans facing financial challenge, but would do even more devastating damage to plans like the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust (WCTPT): plans that are in strong condition, in the “green zone.” This new proposed legislation, called the GROW Act, must be stopped in its tracks. Teamsters Joint Council 28 is calling on all Teamsters to come together to put an end to this awful legislation.
The GROW Act, which stands for “Give Retirement Options to Workers,” is little more than a cover that would allow employer participants in multiemployer plans to shift all the risk from themselves directly onto the employee members of the plan. The GROW Act, which cannot be used by “red zone” plans and would therefore do absolutely nothing to help financially troubled multiemployer plans, would change the rules for these pension plans in a way that weakens the system as a whole and threatens our retirement security.
First, the bill would drain contributions from existing multiemployer plans to fund new composite plans – setting up both plans for failure and putting Teamster retirement benefits at risk.
Second, the bill would permit draconian cuts to workers’ promised benefits and subject retirees to devastating cuts to their pensions.
Third, the GROW Act would make it easier for employers to withdraw from pension plans without paying their fair share of the plan’s liabilities.
Fourth, the bill undermines the solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) because composite plans would be exempt from paying premiums, despite creating significant new liabilities for the PBGC due to the plan failures that would result from weakening plan funding.
And finally, under the GROW Act, workers lose the safety net of PBGC insurance coverage and face the prospect of total benefit loss in the event of a plan failure.
The WCTPT is the largest and most successful multiemployer defined benefit pension plan in the nation. WCTPT provides retirement security to over 600,000 families in all 50 states and nearly every congressional district. We rely on the WCTPT and the current multiemployer pension system as critical components to support the financial well-being of our families.
Therefore, as Teamster members and WCTPT beneficiaries – both present and future – we urge everyone to come together and voice our strong opposition to the GROW Act and to instead support efforts to sustain and strengthen the multiemployer pension system in a way that protects the retirement security of millions of American workers and retirees.
“We will not be fooled by legislation that claims to give us options but instead seeks to pull the rug out from under us,” said Teamsters Joint Council 28 President Rick Hicks. “The GROW Act poses a very real threat to our pension plan, and we will do whatever we can to protect the pensions we have spent our entire careers working to earn.”